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More Weighty Tomes and Trends

By weight, of course, those journals represented only a small part of the collection. I also found several dozen books, most not particularly rare, but a good number of them signed or with other interesting associations - for example, a copy of Maurice de Baets's The Apostle of Alaska: Life of the Most Reverend Charles John Seghers (English trans., 1943), with the tipped-in calling card of Bishop Joseph R. Crimont, S.J., who served as the Prefect Apostolic (1907-1917) and first Vicar Apostolic (1917-1945) of Alaska.

I began to notice patterns - for example, works on the Jesuit missions in Alaska by the German literature scholar and historian Father Louis L. Renner, S.J., and many, many works, particularly biographies (a genre that particularly appeals to me) on the O.M.I. missions and missionaries in Canada. There were also many books on the nuns and religious sisters of the Arctic missions. It was they who provided most of the teachers and nurses for the northern schools and hospitals. I'm certain I only scratched the surface of books about them. (For the future, I am preparing an entire essay on the "nun bibliophile" phenomenon.)

One important crossover trend I noted was the prevalence of references to early aviation among the Arctic missionaries, the vast distances and formidable territory that they had to cross being the obvious explanation. This was such an important factor in the Arctic missions that one autobiographer used it in the title of his work: Paul Schulte, O.M.I.'s The Flying Priest Over the Arctic: A Story of Everlasting Ice and of Everlasting Love (1st ed., 1940), of which I found many copies including signed ones with promotional photographs laid in. Although I did not pursue it further than the few books that mentioned it, I have a hunch that Arctic missionary aviation could be a big collecting area all by itself!

Selling Out

A couple of years and a few dozen items into this collection, I noticed higher and higher prices for books I had not yet acquired and the collection requiring more and more of my attention. I had done some research for the collection but had not acquired any serious reference works because the bibliographies and encyclopedias on the Arctic are numerous and expensive - too expensive for this accidental collection. And although I had made many lucky and interesting finds, I started to sense that my luck was running out. I think I was one of very few people collecting in this exact area, but I ultimately found myself at the dangerous crossroads of Arctic literature (heavily collected by private collectors) and missiology (rigorously gathered by academic institutions). So, although the collection was far from complete, my solution was to sell out.

After one false start on eBay, I relisted with a more extensively annotated catalog and was fortunate enough to attract a few competitive bidders. I managed to sell the still-immature collection for a modest profit (which I estimate to have been about 20%). I was quite pleased when the buyer turned out to be the dean of a Catholic college at a West Coast university who gave the collection to his school's library, there to be kept together in special collections, though not yet accessioned, for the time being.


Many collectors view the production of a catalog or a bibliography as the capstone of a successful collection, particularly if the collection is going to be sold off. I didn't stick with my Arctic Catholic collection long enough to achieve such a distinguished finale, but I was quite pleased to learn, not long after I sold it, that Louis Renner, the eminent Jesuit scholar mentioned above, had just published a massive, 700+ page encyclopedia of all things relating to the Catholic Church in Alaska: Alaskana Catholica: A History of the Catholic Church in Alaska, A Reference Work in the Format of an Encyclopedia (2005).

Fr. Renner's work, given the small profit I made, convinced me that I was very much on the right track in assembling this accidental collection, even though I decided not to continue the hunt. In turn, my experience convinced me that it's worth the attempt to put together a unique collection, especially if the attempt seeks to break new collecting ground and even to turn a profit. Good luck assembling and selling your collection.

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